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Vanderbilt University and Others Developing Technology for Spinal Cord Injuries

One of the most famous people to have suffered a spinal cord injury was Superman himself, Christopher Reeve. While he may have passed over ten years ago and a “cure” for paralysis remains far from reality, institutions like Vanderbilt University and others are developing technology that can aid in restoring mobility in addition to other function for paralyzed people suffering from spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injury Technologies

A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal which often causes permanent deterioration in strength, sensation, and other bodily functions below the site of injury. When a spinal cord injury is “complete” it means that the cord has been severed and the body is paralyzed below that point.

The following technologies have been developed in the last decade by researchers and experts to help victims suffering from partial and complete spinal cord injuries regain some of their mobility and function.

Exoskeletons

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed the Indigo Exoskeleton, which has allowed paralyzed people to stand upright, sit, and even walk. The university began testing the exoskeleton back in 2010, and this June it was introduced to the market. In addition, Ekso Bionics in California developed the eLegs, an exoskeleton with battery powered legs that is not yet available for purchase.

Electrical Stimulation

Also known as epidural spine stimulation, this process implants a device that sends electrical signals to the spine. It has been shown to be particularly effective for people suffering from complete spinal cord injuries. However, this procedure does not fix any sensory injuries, so any feeling in the injured area is still gone.

Brain-Computer Interfaces

Otherwise known as BCIs, this device links the brain to a computer or external device like a prosthetic limb. This technology has focused solely on using the interface to control outside objects for the use of the paralyzed person but has future plans to try and use the interface to reanimate a person’s own body.

At the World Cup in Brazil this summer, researchers demonstrated the first combination BCI and exoskeleton. A young paraplegic man in a brain controlled exoskeleton kicked a soccer ball during the opening ceremony. He wore a cap of electrodes that recorded signals from his brain, sent them to a laptop computer on his back, and that triggered the exoskeleton to execute the kick. However, this technology is not yet capable of enabling paralyzed individuals to walk on their own using their own brain control.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

Despite the development of new technologies, victims of spinal cord injuries face a lifetime of disabilities and financial burdens. If you or a loved one has suffered from a spinal cord injury in the Nashville area, let the experienced personal attorneys at Calhoun Law, PLC help. Call or contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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